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GP Week : Issue 60
>>WRCnews Skoda on top in Barum SKODA scored its second major rally win of the weekend when its Fabia Super 2000 cars led the Barum Czech Rally Zlin from start to finish, with 27 year-old Jan Kopecky scoring the most important victory of his career in front of his countrymen. Skodas finished first and third (Hanninen) with Kris Meeke’s Peugeot UK team 207 Super 2000 coming second and continuing to lead the IRC series. Widely acclaimed as the most popular event in European rallying, spectators thronged to the southern Czech Republic town of Zlin with two thoughts in mind, the possibility of a Skoda victory and a four-way battle for victory between Czech drivers Kopecky, Roman Kresta, the new Junior world champion Martin Prokop, and Pavel Valousek. The Skoda threat certainly put pressure on the top regular IRC competitors, notably the Kronos Peugeot and Fiat teams. Meeke started unhappily with a bad head cold and a puncture on the opening stage, but he gradually caught up and by the end of the first day was third. Towards the end of the first full day the rains came and tyre choices became the challenge. Giandomenico Basso was lying third, splitting the two regular Kronos drivers but then crashed – a personal disaster as this dented his European championship chances and for Fiat, as team-mate Rossetti was struggling after a spin. The weather cleared up for the second day and the first major shock was the exit of Freddy Loix who sustained damage after he punctured a tyre; then Novikov went off the road and retired. Three stages from the finish Hanninen also went off the road and was delayed long enough for Kresta momentarily to take third place but Hanninen took this back. Crocker to Miss Rally Australia Guest PCWRC driver Cody Crocker (right) had withdrawn his entry for Repco Rally Australia due to transport problems for the Group N Subaru Impreza which he had hoped to use. His codriver Ben Atkinson (left) confirmed that the car ear-marked for this event was being flown to Australia from Indonesia, but the freight company had advised them that the car could not now take the flight on which it was booked. "Unfortunately there seems to be no way we could find another car, so regrettably we will be absent. There are very few eligible cars around in Australia", Ben explained Meanwhile, the FIA has confirmed that the other official Guest driver for RRA, Neal Bates, will be eligible for PCWRC points – as his Toyota Auris will be homologated only on a regional basis, there had been doubts whether this would be the case. Last Stage Victory in Ulster EUGENE Donnelly has out-psyched his rival Gareth MacHale on the final stage to win the Ulster Rally. The lead, which had been in MacHale’s favour but seldom by more than five seconds or so, suddenly swung to Donnelly after MacHale overshot a junction and lost a quarter minute. "I just left my braking too late", is all MacHale could say at the end. Eugene, known as the ‘Genie’, also had some luck – after the final stage he had a puncture, but it was on the road section to the finish. The British championship section of the rally was also tight all the way, with an initial battle between the championship contenders Keith Cronin and Mark Higgins, before Cronin crashed, Higgins finally won by 8.3 seconds. The rally began with a fierce three way Irish championship World Rally Car battle between the Impreza of Derek McGarrity, the Fabia of Donnelly and the Focus of MacHale, but McGarrity fell back with damper problems and settled for third place. The event produced the first British national rally title of the season. Martin McCormack won the championship’s Junior title at the wheel of a Citroen C2 R2 Max. The overall awards in both the Irish Tarmac Championship and the British rally championship will now be decided on the final rounds, the former at the Cork 20 Rally, the latter at the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire. On both these series competitors score a 50% points bonus on the final round. The BRC battle between Cronin and Higgins could hardly be more clear – whoever beats the other in Yorkshire takes the title. 1